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ISIS Shoots Down Helicopter in Mosul, Kurds ‘Re-energize’ Independence Referendum Plan | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Iraqi Army checkpoint with Iraqi flag, center, in front of a Kurdish checkpoint with Kurdish flag, left, outside Irbil, northern Iraq, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

Mosul, Irbil- The Joint Operations Command said on Thursday that an Iraqi military helicopter was shot down by ISIS in the city of Mosul, killing two members of the air force.

The command said the helicopter was supporting federal police forces in west Mosul and was engaged in fierce fighting with ISIS militants, killing many of them.

The helicopter was hit by ISIS fire launched from west Mosul, but crashed in the eastern side of the city.

Iraqi security sources said the helicopter crashed in al-Mohandeseen neighborhood, located on the eastern bank of the Tigris River near the fifth bridge.

Although the operation to retake west Mosul has slowed down, Iraqi forces are fiercely fighting ISIS militants that are hiding inside buildings in the heavy populated areas of Mosul.

Despite efforts to evacuate civilians from the ISIS-controlled areas, Iraqi officials say more than 300,000 are still trapped in those areas.

Although two months have passed since the eastern part was liberated from ISIS militants, the area is still insecure due to ISIS sleeper cells, which occasionally launch terrorist attacks on civilians.

Meanwhile, former Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Iraq’s Kurds are planning to hold a referendum on independence this year to press their case for “the best deal” on self-determination once ISIS is defeated.

The two main Kurdish parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), agreed at a meeting Sunday that a referendum should be held this year, Zebari, a senior member of the KDP leadership, told Reuters.

“The idea of a referendum has been re-energized,” Zebari said.

The former foreign minister also indicated that the expected “yes” outcome in a vote wouldn’t mean automatically declaring independence.